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3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  4,125 ratings  ·  267 reviews
The profoundly brilliant author of Waiting for the Barbarians and The Life and Times of Michael K gives his readers a stunning departure from his earlier work with this allegorical novel of a woman marooned on an island with none other than Robinson Crusoe and Friday. When she later attempts to relate the tale to Daniel Defoe, he is less interested in Robinson Crusoe than...more
Hardcover, 157 pages
Published February 23rd 1987 by Viking Books (first published 1986)
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human communication. we make do with what we have. we fool ourselves. for sake of survival and sanity we must believe words perfectly correspond to the ideas and objects they signify. but they don't. we're all involved in a ridiculous game of existential 'operator': lying to ourselves that the blonde with the budding tits at that end whispered the same thing the stuttering asian kid who smells like kimchi told me at this end.

to riff on that old semiotics-101 saw: words may be the means by which...more
Chris Holmes
In recent readings of Coetzee's Defoe-pastiche, I have become facinated with the figure of Friday's "empty" mouth. Obviously the open-O, the unvoiced scream, the signs arranged on the beach as evidence of Friday's voice as it is both silenced and withheld, speaks to the trope of subaltern. That said, I believe Coetzee is more interested in our assumption that Friday is without a speech organ, tongue-less. Recall that the only evidence of this tonguelessness comes from the travel narrative that C...more
Dec 09, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the original Crusoe
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
I read this a long time ago and have only just got round to thinking about a review now. Now is me sitting in front a netbook with a large glass of red wine, the work phone switched off (praise all your gods, it is the weekend) and a pile of salted cashew nuts to hand. You could cast me adrift on a desert island now, with no hope of redemption and as long as I could take the wine and the nuts (I'll leave the works phone, thanks) then I probably wouldn't utter so much as a squeak of protest.

In Foe, Susan Barton is set adrift in a rowboat after a mutiny on a ship sailing from South America to Lisbon. She lands on an island where Cruso and Friday had been cast away years ago. In Coetzee's retelling of the Robinson Crusoe tale, Cruso is content with his simple life on the island. Friday has been transformed from a Caribbean to a black African whose tongue had been cut out by slave owners. The three castaways are rescued after Susan has spent one year on the island, but Cruso dies on h...more
J.M. Coetzee's 1986 novel FOE is a retelling of ROBINSON CRUSOE that uses Daniel Defoe's well-known story as a basis for a bitter commentary on colonialism. To really get anything out of Coetzee's novel, you'll need to read ROBINSON CRUSOE first. The Penguin Popular Classics edition is an inexpensive way to read that important work.

As FOE opens, we are introduced to Susan Barton, an Englishwoman returning from Brazil who is set adrift on the seas by mutineers. She washes up on an island populate...more
This book is sheer poetry. The language, the pacing, the images - a feast for the mind!
As I see it Coetzee is the most important writer of our times. It is almost ridiculous to praise his style, as the way he formulates the questions and ideas of his writing is so perfectly self-contained and self-explanatory. Unaffected simplicity and clarity translate into utmost sophistication.
At the centre of his work lies the idea of compassion: for animals, for the ones left behind by society, for the crip...more
This review will overflow with cliché. Such is the sum of my experience. Fox is a meditation on silence. Coetzee explores the natural aspects of such. The sea and wilderness yield no ready wisdom. Such doesn’t communicate in our jejune terms.

There is also an algebra of silence by design. It is a poetry of omissions. It is the fruit of doubt and a coveted rank of humility. The narrative currents of our lives are larded with the silence, we adorn them with caprice and detail. Coetzee intervenes in...more
Quinn Slobodian
Coetzee's sometimes strained exercise here is to write together the narratives of Daniel Defoe's two major novels, Pamela and Robinson Crusoe. Once again, the central undertaking is Coetzee's straining to hear the voice of the subaltern through his characters and once again concluding with the best-solution-possible as some complicated ritual of bodily compassion and performative abjection. As the characters of The Darjeeling Limited need a drowned Indian boy to make their trip meaningful, Coetz...more
Jason Coleman
It's not hard to see what drew Coetzee to the Cruso myth. Stranded on an austere patch of land with only a black servant to keep you company: reminds me an awful lot of the author's native South Africa. The long first section of the book, in which Susan Barton washes ashore on Cruso's island, is a tour-de-force, one of the best sustained pieces of writing Coetzee's ever done. But the shift to England, where Susan enlists Daniel Defoe to write her story, comes along with endless ruminations on th...more
What I love about Coetzee's writing is how good he is at immediately bringing the reader into his character's world, which is completely different in each book. Foe takes place in 1720, and the narrator is a woman named Susan Barton who after searching for her disappeared daughter in Bahia, is castaway on an island on her return to Europe. On this island she meets Cruso and his manservant of sorts, Friday. They live on this island for a year, until they are rescued and brought to England. Here S...more
I had to read this book for one of my literature classes, and I have come to appreciate its merit. However, it's like drinking cough syrup; it makes you feel slightly woozy, and it may smell alright, but it tastes bad.

In short, this book incites discomfort and confusion as it parallels the apartheid in South Africa. The dissatisfaction I felt as a reader is part of the ironic intention the author wished to propel. There is no solid plot line, and the main characters are unclear. Many plot point...more
Susan Barton finds herself washed up on a desert island. She is rescued by a black African, named Friday, who takes her to the island's only white inhabitant, another castaway called Cruso. Cruso and Friday, who has literally lost his tongue, have passed their days building pointless terracing, upon which nothing grows. Eventually, the 3 castaways are rescued by a passing ship that transports them to London. Cruso dies on the way, and Barton with her mute companion Friday eke out an existence in...more
A brilliaint re-telling of Robinson Crusoe, also a nice piece on the nature of storytelling, the power of language and is written in typically lucid Coetzee prose.

Give this man more prizes!
June Louise
Straight from Defoe's narrative 'Robinson Crusoe', I plunged into 'Foe' mainly because these two books make up a section of my Uni degree.

In 'Foe', Susan Barton becomes a castaway, being washed up on Cruso's (sic) island, where the intelligent, pious Crusoe portrayed by Defoe has become a grumpy, unfriendly man, and where Friday is portrayed as a mute simpleton, in an almost Conradian way. In saying that, the theme of 'Foe' seems to centre on the lack of words/speech given to him in Defoe's nov...more
Aries Poon
In Foe, Coetzee reinvented (some would say "rewrote" but I disagree) Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

But in Foe, adventurous Crusoe becomes weak-minded Cruso (without an "e"), civilized Friday from a Caribbean descent becomes a negro whose tongue was cut off and unable to speak. Coetzee also introduces a female castaway Susan Barton, the key character, and a writer Daniel Foe, possibly a hybrid of Defoe and Coetzee himself.

The Penguin edition is of only 157 pages. The story moves fairly quickly. You ba...more
In general, I enjoy reading books which tell a well-known story from a different perspective. The Wide Sargasso Sea showed how using today's standards, Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre is a sexist, overbearing boor. And Gregory Maguire's Wicked is a brilliant and complex retelling of the children's classic The Wizard of Oz. But I felt there were many problems with Coetzee's Foe. This is a retelling of the classic Robinson Crusoe through the eyes of Susan Barton, a woman who is castaway on Crusoe's d...more
Katie Grainger
Foe is a tale about story telling and how language can be used to both inform and misinform.

Susan Barton is ship wreaked on the same island as Crusoe and his man servant Friday. She finds herself stranded on an unglamorous island where there is very little of interest which happens to herself or her fellow islanders. They pass the time and keep trying to survive, Crusoe appears content on his island with a simple life with Friday. When they are unexpectedly rescued the shock appears to kill Cru...more
The best modern novel I've read in the last year. My first experience with Coetzee won't be my last. Coetzee strips the Robinson Crusoe/Alexander Selkirk legend of its didactic purpose, and we realize the agony of being abandoned. De Foe's novel shows Crusoe finding salvation and organizing civilization through a broadly imperialist pattern. Coetzee's Crusoe is a lazy, empty, forelorn man who has no interest in settling an island or redeeming savages. When Susan Barton (the addition to the novel...more
Roy Elmer
I have been wanting to read Foe for a while. For a couple of years in actual fact, and long before I found this site. I forgot all about it until I stumbled across it in a charity shop in York, and paid the princely sum of £2.99; a sort of treasure finders fee. I got it back to the hotel and did a bit of checking on here, to find that it received an average of 3.5. I can see why that might be the case, as on reading it, it is a very literary piece of fiction. It's not populist, it doesn't have m...more
A partir d'una visió alternativa de Robinson Crusoe, remarcant les mancances i les incomoditats dels naufrags (sembla que ho trava a faltar a l'original) i la vida a una illa deserta, Coetzee s'endinsa en el significat de les histories, qui les escriu, qui les llegeix, com s'adeqüen a aquest públic, i per sobre de tot qui no en pot dir res.

M'ha anat molt bé haver llegit, per casualitat, l'article de Foe, al llibre Un lector comú, de Virginia Woolf, on explica la manera de fe de Foe quant escriu...more
completely blown over. me that is. what a magnificent book. i am not sure what happened at the end or what happened at all but it was so well to read. i hesitated a lot because coetzee won a nobel prize and i thought "foe" would be hard to read, but it drew me in straight away and kept me.
unfortunately i borrowed it from the library so now i will have to go through the expense of purchasing it. to read again and think about it longer.
the prose was clear and pleasant, the narrative, told through...more
If you were ever unclear about what exactly defines "post modern" lit, this is the book that represents it entirely. I read it first at 18, and it is still the best introduction I can imagine.

Most beautiful, I think, is the structure of the work, how it runs parallel to the fiction it's posed to re-imagine, weaving in and out delicately and without flourish. Until the very last pages, it reads almost as if it were a straight, plain account. Then you are hit with the poetry of the final chapter,...more
Smart and well-written. Once I finished this work, I wrote a response paper on it for class with ease. There is just so much there! That said, I would say its brilliance is almost its detriment. Seems impossible, but true. Coetzee is so concern with the intellectual that it almost makes the book...distant. That is a terrible way to describe it I think, but currently it is all I have got. It was this distance that left me with a "so-so" feeling about the book. Not with the ideas behind the book (...more
Kevin Tole
I've got into the habit of buying a Coetzee book every time I go through Johannesburg airport .... and I have so far never been dissatisfied with what I have bought and read.

This is another 'parable from J. M. who as a writer is always on the quest to make his readers think. In this book he couches his message in the 'simple' story of Robinson Crusoe. Seen from another angle and the different pair of eyes of fellow castaway Susan Barton the tale becomes more than a simple tale of desert island.

Lyn Battersby
Clever and brutal, this novel starts off as a retelling of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe but quickly changes direction and becomes something new, something different.

Every time I felt I had a handle on where the narrative was taking me it changed direction and I was once more left standing on shaky ground. Usually I enjoy such experiences (I'm a huge fan of Paul Auster for just this reason) but towards the end I felt as though the work lost itself in its own cleverness.

Another reviewer states...more
Lukasz Pruski
J.M. Coetzee's "Foe" is my eighth book by this author, and one that I like the least. I understand that I am just being obtuse, but I see this novella as somewhat incoherent and lacking precision of the message. Mr. Coetzee must see this work as important in his opus as he dedicated parts of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech to motifs from "Foe".

In early eighteenth century, an English woman, Susan Barton, looking for her abducted daughter in Brazil is cast adrift by mutineer crew of a ship. She...more
The structure of this novel ‘leads’ the way the novel is layered. First there is the story: Robinson Crusoe with several twists. Second there is the way in which one of the main characters of the story: Susan Barton, deals with telling hér story. Third there is the interaction with Daniel Foe, who would like to put Mrs. Barton’s story in context, or bend it towards another context.
Along the way the facts of the story get doubted and interpreted by Mrs. Barton herself, not only during the events...more
This was definitely one of those "What did I just read?" books that both fascinate and confuse you to no end. Especially the ending scenes forced me to give up trying to make sense of this and just enjoy the book as it was.

It started as an adventure: a woman gets washed ashore on a deserted island - the island of Robinson Crusoe and his servant Friday. You'd think - especially considering how short the novel is - that the narrative is going to focus on the happenings on the island and how they e...more
José Toledo
From the beginning of Foe it is clear that Coetzee does not merely intend to offer a re-telling of Robinson Crusoe, since in the place exclusively occupied until then by the famous castaway we now have a woman, Susan Barton, shipwrecked on the island with Cruso and a tongueless Friday. She becomes the main instigator of this narrative. She turns into, at one point, the doppelgänger of Foe; and in light of recent, well substantiated, biographical claims made about Daniel Defoe being a cross-dress...more
This book frustrated me but I am willing to re-read it to discover if it was me or the book that was at fault! (It is on my reading list for my MA)

I loved most of the book but was so frustrated by the ending that I wanted to throw the book across the room! I think that if I hadn't been so deeply involved with it I wouldn't have reacted in such an extreme way which is why I am curious enough to re-read and re-consider it. Just not for a while...
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La Stamberga dei ...: Foe di J.M. Coetzee 1 4 Apr 29, 2013 07:51AM  
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John Maxwell Coetzee is an author and academic from South Africa. He is now an Australian citizen and lives in South Australia.
A novelist and literary critic as well as a translator, Coetzee has won the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.
More about J.M. Coetzee...
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“We must cultivate, all of us, a certain ignorance, a certain blindness, or society will not be tolerable.” 45 likes
“In a world of chance is there a better and a worse? We yield to a stranger's embrace or give ourselves to the waves; for the blink of an eyelid our vigilance relaxes; we are asleep; and when we awake, we have lost the direction of our lives. What are these blinks of an eyelid, against which the only defence is an eternal and inhuman wakefulness? Might they not be the cracks and chinks through which another voice, other voices, speak in our lives? By what right do we close our ears to them? (Susan Barton)” 10 likes
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